Garden City, NY Scott Oâ€™Sullivan, CPA and partner at Margolin, Winer & Evens (MWE), sat down with the New York Real Estate Journal for a Question & Answer session.
Q: What inspired you to first become a CPA?
A: Being a CPA is in my blood. I hold such great admiration for my father, who was (and is still) a dedicated CPA back in our Massachusetts hometown. He was great with numbers. As a child, I remember watching him maneuver through the keyboard of a calculator at what seemed like lightning speed. He was a true gentleman and professional, too. My father never left the house to meet clients without a cleanly-pressed suit and a charming, caring personality to match. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be just like him.
Q: And how does one become just like dad?
A: I think the right foundation meant everything. I attended Villanova University for a bachelor of science in Accountancy. My father held a masterâ€™s of Taxation, so I also earned a masterâ€™s at Hofstra University. Iâ€™ve never stopped learning, though. Iâ€™ve completed various real estate finance and investment courses at New York Universityâ€™s School of Continuing & Professional Studiesâ€™ Real Estate Institute.
A: While attending Villanova, I also met the woman who would become my wife. After she and I made the decision to stay in the New York area together, I looked at seven different firms, six of which were in New York City. I decided to go out to Garden City and meet the folks at Margolin, Winer & Evens. The connection was instant. I felt like I had found a home and I guess they felt the same because I was offered the position before leaving the interview! This was in 1996, so itâ€™s been a good 20-year run.
The first job I had at the firm was an accounting position, but I always had my eyes on taxation. MWE worked with me to transfer my role over and Iâ€™ve been a tax partner with the firmâ€™s real estate practice since 2008.
Q: What type of work does the real estate practice do?
A: As a partner in the firmâ€™s real estate practice, I serve as a trusted advisor to prominent real estate developers, owners, investors, property managers, nursing home owners and operators and other diverse businesses. I work across real estate tax planning, deal structuring and partnership taxation. At MWE, Iâ€™m involved with many different facets of real estate including acquisitions, financing, debt restructurings and modifications, 1031 exchanges, energy and sustainability related incentives, rehabilitation tax credits, and other transactions and planning.
A: I had the good fortune of being exposed to clients and owners very early on in my career at MWE. The partners were great. They encouraged me to network and attend high-visibility meetings. I think that the most challenging yet rewarding lesson Iâ€™ve learned in my career is how to communicate well with clients to ensure that their unique needs are being met.
Iâ€™ve grown to be quite proud of the relationships Iâ€™ve established. Thereâ€™s nothing that feels as wonderful as knowing that Iâ€™ve gained my clientsâ€™ trust and respect. When clients give me a call to ask my professional opinion on an issue that may not be black and white, I know Iâ€™ve successfully connected with their needs. Aligning their objectives and providing appropriate guidance and expertise is one of the most rewarding parts of my profession. This level of care invested in my clients is the true backbone of my practice. I share their anxieties, frustrations, joys and accomplishments.
Q: Do you work with the tax/CPA community outside of Margolin, Winer & Evens?
A: Absolutely. Hearing from various tax minds (and constantly reading business and tax publications) keeps me smarter and sharper across all areas. Iâ€™m a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the Long Island Real Estate Group (LIREG), and involved in leadership committees within my local Civic Association.Â
I try to lend my thoughts if I have a chance to as well. Iâ€™ve spoken at numerous events including â€œReal Estate Repositioning: A Strategy for the New Economyâ€ as well as the NYC Real Estate Expo, which was one of the largest events in the real estate industry.
Other speaking engagements that I participated in covered topics such as the impact of the Federal rehabilitation tax credit on New York City real estate, tax incentives within recently passed legislation that benefit owners of repositioned/retrofitted buildings; current trends in structuring leases to maximize tax deductions from both landlord and tenant perspectives; efficiency and solar projects for commercial properties; cancellation of indebtedness income; choice of entity; IRS regulations related to expense vs. capitalization of improvements to tangible property and related tax planning.
Q: Is there anything else that makes you a great CPA?
A: I wouldnâ€™t call my success mine alone. My wonderful wife Maureen has supported me through 20 years of professional growth. We have four children that bring such joy and happiness to my life. While my neighbors may laugh at my Red Sox and Patriots caps, it brings me a great deal of joy to carry those thoughts of Massachusetts through to today. And each morning when I get ready for work, I picture my father putting on his own freshly-pressed suit.